What is wrong with the Los Angeles Kings?
They dropped a 4-2 decision to the Dallas Stars Tuesday, pressing a four-game losing streak into a five-game losing streak.
They are a team that has not won or led a game since October 11, when they defeated the Montreal Canadiens. Since then, they’ve lost to the Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres, and Stars.
Apart from the obvious, that’s not exactly a who’s-who of league powerhouses. The Sabres and Islanders picked them apart and the Kings have been outscored 25-7 during the losing streak.
So far this season, Los Angeles has allowed 32 goals against. The Red Wings and Flyers are doing worse in that department, but only Detroit compares when it comes to the goal differential. That stat is laid bare because the luckless Kings have scored just 17 goals this season, two more than Arizona and but one less than the Red Wings.
Now, there are some excuses.
Dustin Brown hasn’t cracked the lineup since he’s out with a broken finger, while Jonathan Quick didn’t start in goal until recently.
First, Brown. He could be back in the lineup come Sunday, when he can be pulled from the injured reserve list. Brown put up some points last season and made the power play better, which is something the Kings surely need.
Second, Quick. The 32-year-old started the season with an overtime loss to the Sharks before missing the next five with a lower body injury suffered during practice. He returned and hasn’t won yet, allowing 14 goals so far – including four goals on 23 Stars shots on Tuesday.
Those two players won’t make that much of a net positive difference, which means what the club displayed in the post-season last time out – a sluggish, out-of-place hockey team – is really the full picture.
Right now, the Kings have under $15,000 of cap space and a lot of players under some big contracts. Drew Doughty won’t have his deal kick in until he’s 30, at which point he’ll be paid $11 million a year to hopefully be the face of the franchise for the next eight years. That doesn’t even include the bonus-heavy top half designed to ensure he’s in the can.
They’ve also got 31-year-old Anze Kopitar signed through 2023-2024, while they rolled the dice on Ilya Kovalchuk for three years.
This is a team that wants to believe they can win the Cup again. And maybe they can, but not in the NHL as we know it today. They’ve got Stanley Cup history, but that’s seeming more and more like ancient history as teams get faster and younger down the stretch.
So, what’s wrong with the Los Angeles Kings? Turns out, an awful lot. This is a team in trouble from start to finish, top to bottom – kind of like the Blackhawks in a few years – and that means the solutions aren’t easy.
Trading, scrapping and rebuilding the daylights out of a franchise is a big undertaking. If the Kings stop living in the past, they can reinvent themselves and get back to the dance. But from the looks of things, this is going to be a long, long season.